Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reflections on my car accident (part 1 of 3)

It's been a bit over 6 months since my car accident, and I finally feel like I can write about the accident with some perspective. Perspective that only time brings.

Background (WARNING -- some people may not want to read):
I rolled a convertible off the interstate while going to class the last week of fall semester. I was found upside down, seatbelted in by a truck driver ~ the roof of the car lower than the level of the steering column. I do not know how long I was alone. I just know that this happened during rush hour in the morning, around 7:30, it took them about 45 min to get me out of the car and 15 to fly me to the hospital; I did not make it to the hospital until 10:30 AM. As it took them so long to get me out of my car, and my car was in such rough shape... I was airlifted to the hospital. At the time the rescue personnel arrived on scene, I did not know my name, where I was going, who I was, my occupation, or anything else about me with any certainty. By the time I arrived at the hospital, I still had not figured out the date.

At the accident scene... I remember being in a fog, and then in a lot of pain (my neck hurt), and finally when they cut my seatbelt off -- very, very cold. Colder than I have ever been in my entire life. When they got me out of the car, in the cold winter air, they cut my jacket off and clothes up (cut jeans above my knees, sweater and shirt above my elbows and in a straight line down to my abdomen) in order to ensure access to veins if needed. They finished cutting my clothes off when we got to the ER and replaced them with a hospital gown.

There are things I remember about the ER -- the absolute chaos when I came into the ER, followed by the absolute stillness once they determined that I was going to be okay. I remembered meeting some people who will have me as a student in the future, and seeing some familiar faces (from shadowing in the same ER earlier in the semester). As my husband was a few hundred miles away on business when he got the call about my accident, my father-in-law came to the ER, and in addition to being a comforting, familiar face; took instructions from the police officer investigating the crash, hospital personnel, etc. and reassured my husband about my status until Pete arrived -- things that I was not able to do in my concussed, confused state, and am so thankful that he was there.

I was released from the ER that afternoon, requiring only 6 stitches behind my ear... pretty banged up, and not quite sure if I was going to be able to continue with school, in part because I could not think straight at that time (a post concussion effect -- took a few days to resolve) and also feared that I had forgotten everything I learned fall semester just prior to all the final exams.

Thankfully, I have been able to continue with school. The effects of the accident have been nil, as far as I can tell... although I have decided not to participate in any contact sports/activities that have a higher likelihood of concussion (i.e. hockey, sledding, skiing, lacrosse, etc.) for the next year. And the academic effects have been almost moot ~ I do have to return to school early (August 11-22) to study and take the last exam in Anatomy, which I missed as a result of the accident.

Reflections on my car accident (part 2 of 3)

To be entirely honest, not a day goes by that I do not think about the car accident. Not all the time, just moments ~ like when I think about the house or the highway or sometimes during a quiet part of the day or when someone I have not seen in a while asks me directly about the accident. The accident changed our life in so many ways ~ mostly for the better, I think. I am a firm believer that "everything happens for a reason, though not always apparent at the time".

Although, I would never have asked to be in such a traumatic accident and if I had to do this year over again knowing what I know now... We would certainly make the choices we made after the accident in hopes of preventing it from ever have happening in the first place.

However, knowing Pete and I, I think we had to go through the accident and its aftermath in order to get to where we are now... our life is much simpler. More focused. We live with more intention and prioritize what we want to do, rather than trying to do everything that we feel we want to/need to do. That's not to say that we did not think about what we were doing last summer before I started school ~ because we did. We just chose to stay/keep life much the same for the wrong reasons.

There is much good that came out of the accident. Pete loves his new job. I was able to move out of our home in order to live near school (difficult to do when you become attached to a place). Hondo spends more time with me, and is able to on walks during the day. I was able to give myself an evening off during the week (Friday nights) ~ what a luxury ~ so nice to have a bit more time for myself or to spend with Pete. We got rid of all car payments. Pete became available to help me with household tasks (laundry/cooking/cleaning) during the week, and actually acquired enough free time to take up flying... something he has talked about doing for years.

So, all-in-all, the accident was not all bad but just served as a reminder of the fragility of life and that we are not always in control.

Reflections on my car accident (part 3 of 3)

Misc. lessons learned from the car accident:

1. I avoid telling people who have been in a bad car accident (and perhaps other near death experiences?)... "You are lucky to be alive.". Though true, and despite people's best intentions, this comment never sat well with me. It is an instantaneous reminder that this accident could have had really different outcomes, and made me feel somehow undeserving of how well I fared, like I won some sort of sick cosmic jackpot.

Instead of that comment, I found things like, "thinking of you" or "hope you feel better soon", or "there are easier ways to get out of taking exams", to be more supportive. On that note, I was really touched by all the people who called in the days following the accident, and it was really nice to have Pete around to screen my phone calls/take messages and allow me to rest. It was nice to know that people were thinking of me, without having to interact with everyone individually.

2. I have learned more about something called the bystander effect, and now look for drivers in the ditch/new accidents to report to 911. Despite my accident occurring during rush hour, nobody called to report my accident until the truck driver stopped and held my hand, and I do not know how long I was alone.

3. Having a chaplain call a family member with only bare-bones information (like, "your wife has been airlifted to the ER") and no other details can cause a lot of worry and anxiety for the family member on the receiving end of the phone call.

4. It's good to have a family member/friend come with, to get instructions from the people in the hospital (in addition to being a familiar face)... being in the ER/hospital is disconcerting enough (especially with a concussion)!

5. Time is an important resource in life. We have become more critical of how this resource is being consumed, because in the end that's what life is... time. And how we choose to spend it, is important. And, we may as well spend more of it doing things that we enjoy doing, rather than blindly spending it wastefully... so we have trimmed out things that we don't enjoy that much: most of the commute, cooking, cleaning beyond what's required for sanitation, etc.

And... I think that's all! :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

He made it 3 times around the pattern... safely

That's... 3 takes offs and 3 landings. And LOVED it! :)

He came home wired, and excited, and happy. It's fun to see him that way! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pete has his first solo flight today! :)

After 10 hours of instruction, Pete will be taking off and landing a plane by himself this afternoon. He has talked about this day since he started flying, as it's the day that each of the pilot's he's met remembers as the day they were hooked for life (or alternatively, the day some other students found out that flying is really not their thing)!

I think he will enjoy it, but I will be thinking of him the whole time he is up in the air... floating around free, doing his drills... but mostly, hoping he comes down safely! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

U.P. ~ Summer Vacation 2011

This past week, Pete and I spent some time relaxing in the UP... the pics below are a few memories from our week off...

Campfire/Wiffleball on the beach with family...

Doing the scenic tour of the UP, including Eagle Harbor... Copper Harbor... Brockway Mountain... and a few other stops with my family...

Spending some time on the water... I noticed these trees from the water and they reminded me of something from a Dr.Seuss book... little tufts of branches at the top.

Outside of the above... we were able to spend quite a bit of time sauna/swimming at the camp where my mom & dad were staying, reading (I got through 8 novels... nothing with any remotely any educational value), and saw a few of our friends too. :) There is nothing quite like the U.P. summer ~ and we felt fortunate to be able to enjoy a whole week of it this year! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Public service announcement (PSA) of sorts

Last week, I took Hondo to the vet for his annual check-up/shots and heartworm test. As I no longer live near my old vet, I went to a local vet teaching hospital and was taught a little bit about how to better care for my dog during the appointment. One of the things I learned, I thought I would share since it rather surprised me...

Prohibited foods for dogs:
Grapes, Raisins, Avocados, Onions, and Garlic.

If your dog is like mine, they sometimes get bits of table food from time-to-time... so, I appreciated them taking the time to go through this list with me. I was only able to say, "no chocolate?" when asked what foods my dog should not be eating.

Outside of that, I was given a few other pointers, that seem specific to a pug/breed with short face and lots of facial folds. I appreciated them telling me how to better care for my dog, because I do not recall anyone doing that in the past with me! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flying with Pete (during his lesson)

Yesterday I went flying with Pete during his lesson! :) We stayed about 1000-3000 feet off the ground the entire lesson -- doing 45degree angle turns, practicing recovering after stalling out the engine, taking off/landing, following lines on the ground and turning. It really is a different experience than riding in a commercial craft, or being in a car.
Ground appearing to come at us during a 45 degree turn! (All well controlled and in good fun!)
View of fields for most of the lesson ~ peaceful!

Friday, July 1, 2011

First day of Freedom!

Now to go collect pics of my planned day...
A poolside pic of some sort.
A cup of iced tea with lemon.
And a copy of some novel half finished... taking suggestions on such a novel! Preferably, something quick and easy to follow.